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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Giants appear to be runners up for Sandoval

With Pablo Sandoval visiting Boston this week, it caused quite a stir on the East Coast and has every media outlet predicting the free agent third basemen will land with the Red Sox.

Now, the Giants are certainly not out of the running, but based on every indication being made from Pablo's camp and the Giants' behalf leads one to believe that the headlines are most likely true. The San Diego Padres have made a late push here as well, and although they're likely third in line behind Boston and San Francisco, their interest likely jacks up the price just a little bit. My guess is that whatever he decides, his decision will likely come sooner than later, and as much as it sucks to admit, I really do see him departing for Boston on a deal in the neighborhood of 6 years and $115M. With the ability to DH him when the time comes, the Red Sox should have no hesitation giving him an extra year or two than what the Giants will offer and you can't really blame the Giants in this case. It just makes sense for Pablo, the Red Sox and even the Giants. San Francisco is said to have offered Panda a deal in the same ballpark as the one they gave Hunter Pence (5 year/$90M), maybe even increasing the total salary up to $100M, but I don't think they'd go beyond that.

So, with the likelihood of the Giants facing life without Pablo Sandoval becoming a legitimate scenario now, the Giants need to be prepared to put a plan B in action, so let's just hope they have one. While they haven't been publicly linked to any free agent third basemen aside from Sandoval, they appear as willing as ever to make a splash in the international market. They had genuine interest in Jose Abreu last winter, and after witnessing his success and all the success recent Cuban defectors have had in the States, they could feel the time is right to make a move in that direction. They're one of about a half-dozen teams to have serious interest in the consensus number one international free agent, Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas. The 24 year-old right-hander has tremendous power and looks to be right in the same category as Yasiel Puig and Yeonis Cespedes. Not to say he'll have the success those two have had, but has a similar talent level not only at the plate, but also in the outfield as well. He was said to be Cuba's most prolific power hitter after Jose Abreu departed last year, but had a down season (due in large part to injury) last season. Tomas first hit MLB scout's radar with a big season at age 21 in 2012 and backed it with a nice showcase in the 2013. In the WBC that year he hit .412 (6-16) with 2 HR, a 2B and 4 RBI, then backed it up with a solid .289/.364/.538 line with 15 jacks, 54 RBI, 34 BB and 52 K's in 81 games during the regular season.

Tomas is not a player without his flaws though. He's got 30-HR/year potential as a big leaguer right now with plenty of room to grow after just turning 24 last week, but has some holes in his swing that he's reportedly been working on. Like with many of the incoming power bats from Cuba, his big power comes with a lot of swing-and-misses and the biggest concern may be whether or not he has enough discipline to hit for average in the big leagues. Like with all international players, it's a risk/reward type of signing that you have to figure out if the potential rewards outweigh the risks. Tomas isn't the only Cuban defector the Giants are looking at either. In addition to Tomas, the Giants are also interested in 19 year-old third base prospect Yoan Moncada. Unlike Tomas, Moncada isn't quite ready to be thrown into the fire in the big leagues, just because he doesn't have as much experience at 19, but he'll have plenty of time to develop and is said to have the most overall upside of any Cuban player available this winter. Tomas has the huge power, but Moncada may have a more polished all-around game and certainly should refine it even further at the minor league level.

Extras: Aside from the two international free agents, there haven't been many new names linked to the Giants in recent days and I don't think they'll really get serious with anyone until after the situation with Pablo sorts itself out. The Giants' brass all expect a decision before Thanksgiving on that front... Elsewhere, the Giants have expressed high interest in bringing back Sergio Romo, though Santiago Casilla is likely locked in as the closer for 2015 and Romo may be seeking a return to that role with a new team. I could easily see him departing for one of the SoCal teams, either the Dodgers or Angels, as he's from LA and both could use late inning relief help and have the funds to throw Romo a 3-year, $27-30M deal or whatever he's seeking. I just can't see the Giants giving him much more than $6-7M a year for 3 max though... The one possible replacement for Pablo Sandoval, should the situation present itself, who I've been monitoring and have talked about here is Chase Headley. He doesn't seem too close to a deal yet, but there are more teams in on him than Pablo as he's going to cost half the money annually and probably half the years that Pablo will. He's no Panda, but if the Giants could grab Headley, upgrade in left field and bring in another #3-type starting pitcher, they'd be just fine without Panda.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Giants focused on Sandoval, looking at LF

Just as expected, in the two weeks of offseason there's been since the Giants won the World Series, their primary focus has been on retaining postseason machine, Pablo Sandoval. However, as they try diligently to persuade their incredibly popular third basemen into returning, they've also begun to ponder over some of the outfield options that are on the market.

I don't think the market for Sandoval was quite as big as The Panda was anticipating, but apparently their is at least one other team who's interest is rivaling the Giants, and that is Boston Red Sox. He's scheduled to visit with Boston in person sometime early next week, and my guess is he's probably gonna sign somewhere sooner than later. I don't see this thing really dragging out past Thanksgiving. I've always felt that if Pablo leaves San Francisco, he'd wind up in the AL East somewhere, and both the Red Sox and Blue Jays have shown interest and although they've been quiet, you can't count out New York. The 'Sox may make the most sense for Pablo should he leave the Bay Area. David Ortiz is an idol of Sandoval's and with the two being close friends, Ortiz is believed to be doing his best to convince Pablo to join him in Boston. Also, while Pablo may have had his best defensive season of his career in 2014, his body type may prohibit him from playing the hot corner well into his 30's and he almost certainly will end up a DH at some point in his career so long as he keeps that bat. This gives even more incentive to an AL team to swoop in on him and a big reason why I'm surprised there more teams aggressively pursuing him.

Nevertheless, the Giants can't be complaining about the fact they have just one known serious competitor for Sandoval as there really is no equal to Pablo at third base out there on the free agent market. I've heard Hanley Ramirez's name tossed out there but HanRam is hardly the type of personality that would fit in this clubhouse and his history of injuries makes even Pablo Sandoval look like Cal Ripken. After Pablo and HanRam, things drop off quickly though in terms of third base options, another reason I'm surprised there isn't more interest in Pablo. Chase Headley would be the only other starting caliber third basemen on the market after those two. Asdurbal Cabrera could be a backup plan as he may be able to slide over to third and provide solid defense and a semi-decent bat, but again, a far cry from Pablo. I mentioned Headley here last week as the guy who would probably make most sense should Sandoval sign elsewhere. His switch hitting bat could be inserted into the middle of the order somewhere and although he doesn't have the explosive bat Pablo does, he did have a .283/31/115 year in San Diego of all places just 2 seasons ago. Since that breakout campaign however, he's totaled just 30 HR and 99 RBI in two full seasons, so expecting anything more than a .260/15/70 line (roughly his career 162-game average clip) out of him would probably be unreasonable. In today's market though, with his solid glove and playing a position that's sorely thin in Major League Baseball right now, he's gonna get a multi-year deal worth $10M+ per year.

Now, with all this focus on Sandoval, the Giants must not overlook their other areas of need, and apparently they've inquired about some outfielders. There were whisperings at the start of the GM meetings that the Giants were interested in Torii Hunter as a possible replacement for Michael Morse in left field. At age 39, Hunter has hinted at possible retirement, but would have to have some interest in making one last run at a tittle before retirement should the Giants' interest be genuine. Hunter did have a solid .286/18/83/.765 line in 2014 and still is one of the better defensive outfielders in all of baseball, so he could certainly make some sense on a very short-term deal. Hunter is likely attractive to them because of his still relevant production and the likelihood that he'll seek just a one or two-year contract because to get his production from a player younger than him will likely start costing multiple years and much, much more money. Nelson Cruz isn't going to be a Giant, as interesting as that would be, and the market isn't too deep with outfielders this winter either. Besides Hunter, Morse and Cruz, there's Alex Rios, Colby Rasmus, Nick Markakis and Nori Aoki. Rasmus is semi-intriguing, just because he too will likely be looking for a short-term deal to rebound from last season. He's right in the prime of his career and is a pretty good bet to rebound, health permitting. The options just aren't great ones in the outfield, which makes keeping Pablo's bat at third all the more valuable.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

After third tittle, Giants aren't done yet

After winning their third World Series Championship in five seasons a week ago, celebration time has wound down for the front office and Brian Sabean as they have multiple big decisions ahead of them.

First of all though, I wanted to just say a couple of final words about the World Series. It was an incredible battle between the Royals and Giants, coming down to the final out of Game 7 with the tying run just 90 feet away, but the Giants' grit and experience paid off as Pablo Sandoval (fittingly after the postseason he just put up and quite possibly playing his last game in the orange and black) reeled in the Salvador Perez foul pop-up to end another epic run by San Francisco. The Giants, underdogs in every postseason series they played in this October, just don't wilt under the pressure of the big stage, and actually seem to thrive on it. It also helps when you have one of the best pitchers in postseason history basically win three games for you in one series. They've had a lot of change-over from the 2010 championship team, but 2014's squad was eerily similar to that which won it all in 2012 (sans the starting pitching, second base and left field). What was most impressive for me though, was the way this team just kept finding ways to win despite dealing with a multitude of injuries. The Giants didn't have a deep bench this year and had to deal with replacing Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and even Michael Morse down the stretch and most of October. They also didn't have the strongest starting pitching staff in the playoffs (without their #2 Matt Cain), as Madison Bumgarner was the only one to post an ERA under 5. That's just a testament as to how good of a job Bruce Bochy does with this team and why he's become a sure-fire Hall-of-Fame skipper.

2014 was basically a tale of 3 seasons for the Giants. They had that epic start in which they were 20+ games over .500 in early June. Then they had the meltdown in the middle of the season as guys started dropping, barely battling their way into that last wild card spot. Part three was the historical October run, in which the San Francisco Giants became a modern day dynasty. However, as exhilarating and nerve-racking that October was, we've entered into November, and while the players may take some more personal time before they start training for 2015, the front-office has no such luxury. The Giants have been able to hoist the World Series trophy in three of the last five seasons, but they've yet to put together back-to-back winning seasons during that span. After 2010's run, they dealt with the Buster Posey injury and a meltdown in 2011. Then in 2013, they dealt with a ton of injuries and wound up 10 games below .500 at the end of the year. Now their goal has to be avoiding that post-World Series let down that they've gone through those last two times, and that all starts now as they begin to piece their roster together for next year. Luckily, they don't have a huge number of players entering free agency, but the ones that are have been extremely important to this team's success, and will be very tough to replace should they depart.

Obviously, the first name that pops up is Pablo Sandoval, who the Giants did extend the qualifying $15.3M offer to on Monday. For most of the year, I was thinking this was going to be it for Panda in San Francisco. Although he turned it on in the second half, his numbers at the end of the year weren't particularly outstanding. However, you factor in what he did in October, and recall what he did in October 2012, and you start to see just how valuable he is when he needs to be. The lack of free agent third basemen makes Pablo an extremely hot commodity this winter though, so there will probably be a handful of teams that will be willing to overpay to get the postseason hero onto their roster. If I'm Sabean, I would be trying to get Pablo to bite on a shorter-term deal even if they had to overpay him in that span. Heck, I'd give him $20M a year for three seasons if he'd take it, maybe even four. I just know there will be some American League team offering him 5 or 6 years knowing they can DH him towards the back-end of the deal though and that's a little risky for a guy who's notoriously overweight and relatively injury prone, even if he is just 28. That being said, despite the weight issues, his defense at third base this seasons was probably in the top-5 at the position in all of baseball so he's not just a DH waiting to happen.

As to how valuable he is for the Giants to retain, they have to figure out what's out there should they need to replace him, and who they have in house in case they can't. They don't really have a back-up plan to Pablo in-house, and their is no equal at the position on the free-agent market. The one scenario that has been mentioned (albeit not by Sabean, Bochy or anyone of merit in the organization) in the event Pablo does depart and they aren't able to replace him would be to move Buster Posey out to third base and plug impressive rookie Andrew Sussac into the full-time catcher role. At some point in the next few seasons, the Giants will be moving Buster out from behind the plate, and logic has it being either to third or first base. He hasn't played third at the professional level yet, but has collegiate experience everywhere in the infield and has plenty enough baseball skills to adapt to a new a position. The thing is, I don't think they'd be ready to head into 2015 with Buster as their starting third basemen quite yet. The one guy out there who is semi intriguing should Pablo leave is Chase Headley. He had a couple of off-years offensively after a breakout in 2012, but would probably provide similar offensive stats as to what Pablo did this regular season, maybe with a slightly lower average while providing a solid glove at third.

Although he's the most important, Pablo isn't the only key Giant hitting free agency though. They'll have decisions to make on Michael Morse, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo and Ryan Vogelsong. They also have to figure out just what they're going to do with Tim Lincecum, under contract for 2015 but jettisoned from the rotation in August and hardly heard from again the rest of the season and playoffs. The rotation is really going to be a focal point outside of third base, as they'll have at least one spot, maybe two to fill. Peavy was solid down the stretch but largely disappointing in October so my guess is the Giants will try and bring him back on their terms or not at all. I'm a big fan of Vogey and Romo's, but I could see both elsewhere in 2015. Morse is going to be an interesting one though. There are a bunch of mid-tiere outfielders out there this year so Morse likely won't have a bunch of big multi-year offers, but after a solid season and clutch postseason (when he played that is), he should have no trouble finding a 2 or 3 year offer at around $10M/per and the Giants need to figure out if they go that high for a guy who's very injury prone, or if they look elsewhere and maybe try and roll the dice on a player much like they did with Morse this year. My guess though, is the Giants don't really do anything in left until they figure out third base cause if they need to replace Pablo's bat, it may end up being in the form of a left fielder.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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